I awoke this morning with the Sunday mixture of Orthodox chants and car horns wafting in through my bedroom window, which is a normal Sunday in this part of Ashrafieh, but today the percentage of honking was a little higher than usual.
I’m not very confident in predicting any results, although if pressed, I’d have to put my money on a slim opposition win, with most of the progress being made by Aoun’s FPM. The big guess is what the cabinet will look like. For more on the cabinet question, check out Qifa Nabki on the ambiguities of the current system. Also, this short interview with Paul Salem is worth checking out.
Last night, I decided that I should game the district where I live now, so here are my predictions for the 5 seats in the Beirut 1 district of Ashrafieh:
(Independent – pro-M14) Nayla Tueni – Greek Orthodox
(M8 – FPM) Nicolas Sahnawi – Greek Catholic
(M14 – Kataeb) Nadim Gemayel – Maronite
(M14 – Future) Jean Ogassapian – Armenian Orthodox (incumbent)
(M8 – Tashnaq) Grégoir Kaloost – Armenian Catholic
I know almost nothing about the Armenian candidates, and I’m favoring Ogassapian because of his incumbency, although I’m not sure how helpful being in office already is when the districts have been changed so much since 2005. Interestingly enough, I haven’t seen hardly any ads in my neighborhood for any of the Armenian candidates, but this morning, the Armenians (especially Tashnaq) were out in force.
This afternoon, I went around for a walk with some friends to check out the situation in Ashrafieh, Sodeco, Basta and down to Sanayeh and back up through Balad and Gemmayzeh (mostly in Beirut 1 but a little bit in Beirut 2), collecting t-shirts all the way (see below). Many of the parties had little gift bags with water, caps, t-shirts, snacks etc. And most were handing out little lists, which surprised me, because I expected them to be full or half sheets, but in many cases, they could have fit inside Chinese fortune cookies.
There were a couple of other things that I found disconcerting. In one street between ABC and Sodeco there were two soldiers in uniform hanging out with a couple of Lebanese Forces supporters chanting LF slogans and making fun of Aoun and Nasrallah. Even more worrisome, though, were the polling stations. One of the ones I went into seemed to be entirely manned by supporters of a single party. (See Update.) In one station in Basta, all of the people were wearing Amal t-shirts and distributing their goody bags in the next room. It’s possible that I misunderstood the layout of the building, because I obviously didn’t vote there, but when I asked if that was the polling station, they said yes, and when I asked if it was the Amal office, they also said yes. (Any clarification on this point would be helpful, because other people I’ve talked to have only seen offices manned by employees from the Ministry of the Interior.) I’m no elections specialist, but it seems like it would be a good idea to have a ban on partisans and partisan signs within, say, 30 meters of each polling station.
The good news, though, is that none of the areas I went to seemed aggressive. The Amal supporters stayed away from the Future supporters, and in the places where the Aounists and LFers and Phalangists were all bunched together, everyone seemed to be in friendly spirits, with partisans often only a couple of meters from their opponents. Hopefully, this attitude will continue when the polls close this evening.
UPDATE: Since I didn’t go into the voting section of that polling station, I can’t say who was manning the ballot boxes, but I can say that everyone in the area of the building where I was, which included an Amal office, was wearing a Nabih Berri t-shirt, just like the one above. On another note, most of the t-shirts seemed to have been given away in the morning, so I had to go to three different offices to finally find one.
UPDATE 2 – 1:30 AM: It looks like I was wrong, along with almost everyone I know, and March 14 has not only pulled it off, but done rather well for itself. We’ll see what happens with the cabinet and veto, but to be honest, I’d like to see March 14 not give a veto to the opposition (or vice versa if things had worked out the other way around), because I’m really, really not looking forward to more gridlock and heel dragging. I’d like to see a government, either side really, be able to implement its program without being paralyzed by the opposition and then be held accountable and judged for that program’s success or failure. I don’t see that happening, though, so I assume we can look forward to another year or two of nothing followed by mounting tension that either boils over or is stopped just in the nick of time, in either case with a lot of back scratching in a smoke-filled room somewhere.